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Design Thinking: The Art of Ideation

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Design Thinking: The Art of Ideation


Design thinking is the end-to-end process of taking a product from idea to launch. It’s the blueprint used to drive the design of the product. It’s the art and science of connecting people with what they need and want that goes beyond the function of delivering emotional impact. The process focuses on the complete system, not just the product itself.

Design thinking is an iterative process that involves five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

After each stage, designers analyze their findings and apply what they’ve learned to inform their next step. Design thinking is the process by which you develop new products and services. It starts with observation and insight into human behavior and experience. It uses user research to understand what people want or need—leading to a deep understanding of how a product is designed to solve a customer’s problem. It begins with explorations, experiments, iterations, and refinements that result in a well-defined set of ideas about the problems solved, opportunities for improvement, and critical features and benefits. At this point, the product is created, but now it needs to be tested and refined. Throughout these stages, feedback loops employ to identify and address any issues before moving forward.


What are the Principles of Design Thinking? 

Design Thinking Methodology is an approach to innovation based on a set of core values and principles. It includes five principles: ideate, empathize, prototype, test, and iterate. Design thinking is the end-To-End process of taking a product from idea to launch. It’s the blueprint used to drive the design of the product. It’s the art and science of connecting people with what They need and Want that Goes Beyond the function of delivering Emotional Impact.

The process focuses on the complete system, not just the product itself. Design Thinking Is an iterative process that Involves five Phases: empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, And Test. After Each Stage, designers Analyze Their Findings and Apply what they’ve Learned to Inform their Next Step. Design Thinking is the process By Which You Develop New Products and Services.

It Starts with Observation and Insight Into Human Behavior and Experience. It Uses User Research to Understand What People Want Or Need – Leading to A Deep Understanding Of How A Product Can Be Designed To Solve A Customer’s Problem. It Begins With Explorations, Experiments, Iterations, And Refinements That Result In A Well-Defined Set Of Ideas About the Problems Being Solved, Opportunities For Improvement, And Critical Features and Benefits. Throughout These Stages, Feedback Loops Are Employed To Identify And Address Any Issues Before Moving Forward.


Why Is Design Thinking So Important?

In UX design, it’s crucial to develop and refine your skills to understand and address rapidly changing users’ environments and behaviors. The world has become more connected and complex since cognitive scientist & Nobel prize laureate Herbert A. Simon introduced design thinking in his 1969 work, “The sciences of the artificial.” He later contributed many ideas to its core principles. Today, professionals from various disciplines, including architecture and engineering, have advanced this highly creative process.

Design thinking is now used by companies across a broad spectrum of industries. Design Teams use design thinking to solve ill-defined problems (aka wicked problems). Design thinking is a company’s method to solve issues and improve products. It allows teams to produce innovative ideas and ways of doing things. This method helps people think differently about problems and how to solve them.

We will cover each phase in-depth on five critical steps of Design Thinking.


The First Phase: Empathize 

The first phase in design thinking is to “empathize” with potential users. Designers want to understand the users’ goals and the context for their use. As part of the empathize phase, it’s crucial to conduct observations, surveys, interviews, and other methods to understand better the users’ needs and how the system can meet those needs.

There are several ways to do empathy:

Observation – Observe your target audience’s behaviors and situations as they interact with the current systems. It helps you get the lay of the land and discover insights into the problems your target customers face.

Interviews – The interview process is conducted with real users and stakeholders to understand their experiences and challenges. These conversations will help you identify pain points and gaps in the current systems. They’ll also give you deeper insights into their objectives, requirements, and contextual factors related to your solution.

Surveys – Conduct online surveys to gather data directly from your target market. Ask questions like “What kinds of things do you already do?” and “Where could you see yourself using the tool?”. You’ll gain valuable insights into the types of functions your target audience wants to accomplish. Also, when conducting a survey, make sure to include a link to your website so you can track responses once completed. You can then compare results between distinct groups or locations.

Brainstorming – Brainstorm with both internal resources and external partners to produce solutions to real-world problems. Try brainstorming with colleagues, friends, coworkers, family members, etc. They often have unique perspectives and suggestions, and Brainstorming allows you to generate multiple ideas quickly.

Research – Once you’ve decided upon a course of action, look for examples of similar tools that others have developed. Use them for inspiration and reference as you begin designing your solution.

To create an empathetic interaction, you must first understand the motivations behind the user’s actions. For example, if someone is trying to complete a task on time, they may be concerned about losing business or missing deadlines. If a person is trying to save money, he might be interested in finding the best deals and bargains. When considering the purpose and intent of the user, you should also consider the following aspects:

• User Expectations – What does the user think will happen? Can you achieve your goal? Is there something specific? Is the price affordable?

• User Motivations – Why does she care enough to act any personal values at play? Does she need a particular outcome? Does this matter to her?

Once you understand the users’ intentions and expectations, you can begin building empathy by creating scenarios based on these motives. For instance, let’s say a user has a particular deadline and hopes to finish his project before that date arrives. By understanding him through this scenario, you’ve now set up a situation where you know his expectations and why he’s motivated to reach his goal. Based on this knowledge, you can build empathy further by identifying what tasks would need to occur to ensure success. For example, if he doesn’t have access to his computer at work, how can you remove that barrier to continue working without interruption? This type of insight helps designers create positive interactions with potential users — instead of simply forcing functionality onto them, the designer creates valuable features that people want.


Second Phase: Define

The next phase is “define,” Designers describe the system’s users’ goals and roles. The goal is to create a clear understanding of the user’s needs. Here, the designer refines their knowledge of the problem and produces a hypothesis around the solution. This phase serves as the foundation for the rest of the process.

In the defining phase, designers identify the users to answer critical business questions about the problem space. These include information regarding the context, such as users’ motivations, objectives, activities, environment, and time constraints. Additionally, during this phase, designers consider who will be using the system, including their roles and responsibilities within the organization. They also investigate what the users expect to accomplish with the design and whether they’ll need training or assistance to operate it effectively. During this step, designers should avoid oversimplifying the problem of overlooking details that might cause later issues. For example, if the product requires users to input data into an online portal, but the team only has experience designing mobile apps, they may not realize that users need access to a computer and Internet connection to complete the task.

During the defining phase, designers must clearly articulate the purpose of the system and ensure that they’re defining the right problem. To achieve this, they examine the nature of the problem itself and determine if it’s worth addressing.

To address the problem effectively, designers must first establish if it exists. If it doesn’t exist, then why are you working on it? Are users frustrated because they don’t know what they want? Then it makes no sense to develop a new system; instead, focus on improving communication between users and developers. A common mistake is focusing on a problem without knowing if it exists in the first place. This approach often creates something that doesn’t fit well with the real world. Sometimes, teams jump straight to the idea phase before identifying a real problem. It is a bad practice because a single customer may request multiple changes over several months. It’s essential that the team fully understands the customer’s needs throughout the entire process so that it can deliver on them.

  • Why is this idea important?
  • How does this idea impact stakeholders?
  • Will this idea work in our current situation? If yes, what conditions must be met? If not, why not?
  • Who would need to change their way of doing things if this idea were implemented?
  • What kind of people do we have on-staff now?
  • What types of people would we need to hire to make this happen?
  • Do we already have enough resources?
  • Does anyone else have the expertise we could tap into?
  • Is there any cost associated with implementing this idea?

Once the team determines that a real problem exists, they move forward through the defining stage. Designers define the problem they’re trying to solve by mapping out the solution’s features. They also identify the users, their roles, and the contexts in which the system will be used. By describing these elements in detail, designers gain a thorough understanding of the problems being solved.

  • What do I mean when I say “users”?
  • When did I last meet them?
  • How many hours each week will they spend interacting with the system?
  • Do they already use similar techniques?
  • What are the diverse types of users?
  • Which one(s) are most relevant to your project?
  • What are their roles in the organization?
  • How long have they been involved in this role?
  • What’s changed since they started?
  • What else have they done with their time?
  • Have they ever worked on projects like yours?


The Third Phase: Ideation

The “ideation” phase is the third phase in design thinking. This phase is dedicated to generating ideas through Brainstorming or rapid prototyping. During the ideation phase, designers sketch innovative ideas based on the user’s needs and the information gathered from the previous steps. This work often begins with low-fidelity wireframes. Wireframes allow designers to generate rough prototypes quickly. Designers usually start with pen and paper sketches as an initial step. These sketches are called mind maps or storyboards.

To create a mind map or storyboard, designers start by listing all the significant components of the system. Next, they group the main functionalities of each piece. After that, they connect individual functionality to form logical groups. Finally, they link each group back to the overall goal.

You might ask yourself: Can I rely on my intuition to get me through this stage? 

While intuition plays an integral role in the process, it’s not always possible to follow your gut. You can use structured tools such as User Personas, Key Persona Interviews, and Journey Maps to help you generate robust ideas.

  • What is the purpose of this mind map? Why does it matter? Is this an essential piece of the puzzle? Does anyone else know about this?
  • Could we solve the same issue differently? In what ways? How could we improve on our original idea?
  • Are there any risks associated with this approach? How do we mitigate them?
  • What kinds of stakeholders are affected by this? Should we involve them in the initial stages?
  • What assumptions do we have about this issue? Who might challenge them?

Designers then test these ideas against their requirements and decide whether they will proceed to the next phase.


Fourth Phase: Prototyping

The next step is “prototyping” to create usability for the product early in the process. Designers create prototypes to test their hypotheses by getting user feedback as early as possible. The phase involves much testing, and the prototypes are built to inform and test the design rather than to show the final design. The prototype may be as simple as a sketch on a whiteboard, and the prototype may also be as complex as a fully functional server implementation of the application. The design team may even run usability tests on paper prototypes.

The purpose is to gain input on the design concepts before the design is further developed. As the prototypes are created, there should be a description of usability goals and what is tested. When the prototype is ready, it should be tested with real users to meet usability goals. When a prototype is being tested, the designer should keep in mind that the purpose of the prototype is to get feedback on the design, not on the technology. Designers typically create prototypes such as hand-drawn sketches, paper-based storyboards, or low-fidelity wireframes. The goal of these low-fidelity prototypes is to test the rough structure of the interface and its “information density” rather than its visual appearance. The goal is to achieve the desired information and interaction design without investing too much effort.


Fifth Phase: Testing

The final phase is “testing” a few prototypes to determine the best solution. This phase involves getting as much feedback as possible. After testing, the design team decides on the final design. 

The last step in design thinking is “test and refine.” This final design phase involves minimal testing, final design, and a plan to move the product forward. This can include making a final prototype, or just testing the prototype, to determine whether it is cost-effective to produce and market or if there are any needed changes. After testing is complete, the product is sold. If it works well, designers can iterate on the design. They can take feedback from customers and reevaluate design decisions. Then, they can build another prototype. Iteration continues until there are no more improvements to be made.

This approach has been widely used in software engineering but has not been used in many other industries, including finance. It was first published in 1995 when Motorola looked for ways to develop new products. In 2002, this approach was employed to create a website to help people find savings opportunities. Since then, this method has made innovative solutions in different fields.


The Criticism of Design Thinking

Criticism of “design thinking” as a concept can is divided into two categories:

The first criticism asserts that design thinking is a poor framework for conducting research and developing products. It focuses on the process of creativity and not the actual outcomes or outputs. This criticism is based on the false assumption that design thinking has no underlying theory, therefore, no basis for developing functional designs. Designers then test these ideas against their requirements and decide whether they will proceed to the next stage.

The second criticism asserts that design thinking does not work because all designers are biased toward their own experiences. They have preconceived notions about how things should look, function, sound, etc. This bias makes them unable to examine an idea from different perspectives objectively. If they did, they would realize that their preferences prevent them from utterly understanding the needs of people who use the product. This means that design teams do not develop products that solve problems but instead address perceived issues.


Examples of Design Thinking

Design thinking can help any team overcome obstacles. In addition, design thinking is helpful in other areas such as product development, marketing, or customer support. Design thinking helps teams work together effectively. Life Insurance Company MassMutual used design thinking to develop a new product called Society of Grownups. This product helps young adults to make smarter financial choices. This includes helping them understand the importance of having life insurance. We use design thinking to create solutions that are easy to learn and use. Our customers are busy working adults who need to manage their time well. So, we want to make sure that they can easily access information about their finances.

For this reason, we redesign parts of our e-learning platform. We will continue to collect customer feedback to ensure that we continually improve our products. These examples show us that design thinking works with any type of organization. The following sections provide more details about specific applications of design thinking in business, including healthcare, technology, finance, education, and social services.

1. Healthcare

In healthcare, we often need to find ways to keep patients healthy without spending too much money. Also, we must consider the impact of our decisions on society in general, not only on individual patients. Most of us spend most of our lives at work, and however, some of us still must attend school, attend therapy sessions, or take care of sick family members.

Healthcare professionals and administrators tend to focus on solving immediate challenges rather than considering long-term effects. Therefore, they might overlook meaningful opportunities to improve health outcomes. Design thinking encourages healthcare organizations to think critically about their practices to identify better methods to meet patient needs while reducing unnecessary costs over time. For example, one company developed a prototype to improve the delivery of medical equipment to patients. A similar company created a device that could be inserted into a bedpan. Both companies received positive reactions from users. Although these devices are designed to alleviate pain, they have unexpected benefits. Patients could move around more freely once they stopped feeling confined by traditional bedpans. Other design thinking approaches include user testing, prototyping, usability tests, and ethnography.

2. Technology

In technology, design thinking enables developers to create innovative digital products. Many people criticize the current state of digital products because they cannot adapt to changing technologies. Digital products have become increasingly complicated as hardware advances. Therefore, designers must constantly balance cost and functionality. They must also consider how unique features affect user experience. Often, developers fail to anticipate potential problems related to human factors. If they do not test prototypes carefully, they may miss significant flaws that customers find frustrating. This problem is widespread when developers are tasked with building apps for smartphones. Users demand quick updates, but they also expect high quality. It means that designers must balance the pace of changes with the stability of a product.

Developers should also pay attention to power consumption. Too many features drain the battery quickly. To prevent this, developers can reduce the number of options available to users and remove new filters or features those customers rarely use. For example, Facebook uses HTML5 instead of Java Script.

As a result, it consumes ten times less memory and runs faster. This makes mobile apps run longer before crashing. Another way to save energy is to minimize data usage. Google Chrome allows users to limit bandwidth for websites that consume excessive data. It also lets users speed up web pages by skipping images. Facebook has incorporated this feature into its mobile app. Design thinking provides developers with additional techniques to solve complex problems efficiently. Engineers can conduct field studies, evaluate existing code, and study real-world examples. By using these techniques, they can build better products.

3. Finance

When we discuss designing better financial products, we create financial services that work seamlessly and meet consumers’ needs. But if we’re seeking to achieve greater sustainability, we must look at the entire financial system and how it works in practice. At its core, finance deals with risk management; this includes understanding whether borrowers are creditworthy (i.e., whether they’ll repay loans) and investors’ investment strategies. The key elements here are transparency, accountability, and trust. A transparent market is one where all parties know what is going on with money and assets, which requires solid rules and regulations. An accountable market is where everyone follows the rules, obeys the law, and pays taxes. And a trustworthy market is one where no one takes advantage of others.

One of the most fundamental aspects of design thinking is understanding how markets function. Individuals and organizations will invest their money wisely to generate income and increase wealth in a truly sustainable world. However, investing in risky ventures increases the chance of losing your money. We must educate more people about taking on debt to fund investments. Therefore, design thinking plays a crucial role in finance.

Experts gather valuable insights into consumer behavior through various methods such as workshops, simulations, and interviews. This knowledge informs the development of new financial products. For instance, a company might develop a specific loan program for small businesses. Another organization could research ways to make car loans easier to obtain. Even the government can apply design thinking to enhance banking practices. For example, it could test several programs to encourage more citizens to open bank accounts.



So, there you go, a whistle-stop tour of design thinking and its associated methods. I hope this has inspired you to try some of these techniques the next time you find yourself stuck in ideas. The best way to produce great ideas is to keep ideating!

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